Spicy Poblano Burgers with Chipotle Cream

I am a huge wimp when it comes to spicy food. Aside from the occasional buffalo wing (and even then I always choose the mild sauce when given the option), I almost never order anything spicy at a restaurant. At home, I sometimes cook with jalapenos or chipotle chiles in adobo, but I always remove the ribs and seeds and tend to err on the side of caution, sometimes using a slightly smaller quantity than the recipe calls for. There’s nothing worse to me than taking a bite of food and immediately feeling like my mouth is on fire.

So why the heck would I put a burger with the word spicy in the title on our menu? Who knows :) Truthfully, I scanned the ingredient list and realized that the heat in the burgers came only from poblano chiles, and my (admittedly limited) experience with them has been that they’re pretty mild (even by my standards). The sauce does contain chipotle peppers, but I figured there was probably enough sour cream to balance the heat there. I was itching to grill something – I just love the easy clean-up of a meal made entirely outside! Plus, Shane really likes spicy foods, and since I rarely make them for him, I decided to take a chance on these burgers.

Spicy Poblano Burgers with Chipotle Cream

The burgers are made with ground sirloin, which is a bit more lean than the meat I usually choose but they still turned out really juicy. The recipe includes a trick I’ve seen a few times when making meatballs – the inclusion of a paste made from bread and milk, which helps to retain moisture, and it works nicely here. I won’t lie – when I was forming these burgers it seemed like there were a ton of the chopped poblano chiles in each patty, and I definitely got nervous. Shane took one for the team, trying the burgers before me and reporting back on the heat level. For him, these were pretty mild (though he did skip the chipotle cream). As for me, I thought they walked that fine line of being spicy, but not so hot I couldn’t enjoy the flavor. I loved the chipotle cream; even though the chipotles added some heat, the cool creaminess really complemented the burgers. I’m psyched to have another burger (and a relatively healthy one at that!) to add to our rotation this summer!

Spicy Poblano Burgers with Chipotle Cream
adapted from Cooking Light, July 2010

2 poblano chiles
1 tablespoon milk (low-fat is fine)
1 (1 oz) slice white bread, crusts removed, and torn into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 pound ground sirloin
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped
2 teaspoons adobo sauce
4 hamburger buns, toasted
lettuce, tomato or other toppings

If you have a gas stove, turn one of the burners to high, and, one at a time, char the poblanos on all sides. Use tongs to turn them to keep your hands safe and really let them blacken on each side. (If you don’t have a gas stove, you can do this under your broiler too – just put the poblanos on a baking sheet and turn with tongs when blackened.)

Transfer the blackened poblanos to a resealable plastic bag and seal the bag. Set it aside for 15 minutes, then remove the chiles. Peel them (the skin should rub off pretty easily), then finely chop them, discarding the seeds and membranes.

In a large bowl, combine the milk and bread. Use a fork to mash them together into a thick paste. Add the chiles, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cilantro, the cumin, coriander, paprika, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Mix to combine. Add the ground sirloin, and use your hands to gently combine the mixture – don’t overwork it. Divide into four equal portions, and shape each into a 1/2-inch thick patty. Use your thumb to make an indentation in the center of each patty (this will keep the burgers from puffing and swelling in the center as they cook). Cover and refrigerate the burgers until you’re ready to grill them.

Preheat your grill to medium-high heat (400-450 F). Oil the grates lightly (I use the tongs to hold a paper towel that’s been dipped in oil and rub it over the grates).

While the grill is preheating, make the chipotle cream by stirring together the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, sour cream, lime juice, chipotle chile, and adobo sauce.

Place the burgers on the grill (the side with the indentation should be facing up) and cook for about 3 minutes, or until grill marks form on the bottom. Flip the burgers and cook for about 3 more minutes, or until they are cooked to your desired doneness. Serve on toasted hamburger buns with the chipotle cream, lettuce, tomato, or your favorite burger toppings.

Makes 4 burgers